«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
The reason why business relations between Hindus and Muslims are quite good is that there is a high level of interdependence: “All those who are related with business the Hindu-Muslims are connected with each other!”.213 This interconnectedness is mentioned by almost all interviewees with whom I discussed business relations and lies in the fact that there is a division of labour between Hindus and Muslims. As a woman who runs a guesthouse, Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj, puts it clearly: “The weavers of the Banarasi sārīs too are Muslims while the businessmen, shopkeepers, customers, etcetera, are Hindus!”.214 This interdependence makes that people work “together with the mutual support and cooperation”.215 The interdependence between Hindus and Muslims in the sārīs is often referred to as tānā-bānā, meaning ‘warp and weft’.216 Many interviewees use this term, like the insurance agent: “For example this sārī industry, that is made by Julaha Muslims, but Hindus sell that!... And that is like the tānā-bānā, they do hard labour to make sārīs! Their biggest market is Hindu, and the Hindus in business of the threads they sell to Muslims! So each other’s business is interrelated!”.217 Kumar (1989) also mentions that Hindus and Muslims from all socioeconomic backgrounds consider Hindu-Muslim relationships in Banaras to be unique (see section 3.3.2).
Therefore, she notices that the lifestyle of the artisans itself might be a significant factor, as the lifestyle of lower classed Hindus and Muslims is very similar (see section 3.3.2). In his book about the mechanisms that produce Hindu-Muslim violence in north-India, Brass (2003) focuses mainly on Aligarh, a city that has Interview with Mr. Faisal Banarasi, Peelee Kothee, 19 January 2012 Interview with Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj, Dashashvamedh, 10 December 2011; the salwār kamīz (loose trousers with a long tunic) is worn by both Hindu and Muslim ladies whereas sārīs are only worn by Hindu ladies Interview with Mr. Anees Abdul Khan, Peelee Kothee, 25 January 2012 In weaving, the warp is the set of lengthwise yarn that on a frame or loom and the weft is the yarn which is drawn through the warp yarns to create cloth (Interview with Mr. Mukesh Gupta, Vishwanath gali, 23 January 2012; Muslims buy their raw materials (‘threads’) from Hindus remarkable similarities to Varanasi.218 He, too, found that Hindus and Muslims are fairly interdependent in the trade for which this town is famous, the lock manufacturing. However, he remarks that relations between Hindus and Muslims are restricted to business and people do not for example, as section 6.2.2 discussed, visit each other’s religious festivals. He notices that “Only when a person from these two communities have attained a level of prosperity and sophistication to move from the Civil Lines area of the town do their relationships extend beyond business to social ties.” (Brass, 2003, p. 200).219 According to the BHU sociology professor things are changing nowadays. He indicates that a new middleclass of educated Muslims is emerging, who would like to sell sārīs on the international market independent of middlemen. Because of this people are less dependent on each other. Raman affirms that “[from the 1970s on] Muslim entrepreneurs decided to forge direct links to the national and international markets.” (Raman, 2010, p. 58). Interestingly, the professor holds that the degeneration of the tānā-bānā not only weakens the fabric of Hindu-Muslim relations, but also creates communal harmony. This is contrary to the idea that the stronger the fabric and the higher interdependence, the more harmonious people will
live together. The professor elucidates that it will cause the communities to polarize:
“If it breaks, the dependency, then there is every chance that the cohesive side of society will break also.”.220 Because of this the relations between Hindus and Muslims change, according to him they will become more shallow which will result in more communal harmony (see also section 6.3.2).
Raman maintains that the economic crisis will have its impact on the relationship between the communities. She is more negative than the professor, fearing that “The Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb (culture), so characteristic of Banaras, an essential feature of which is certain fluidity and relations based on good faith, will give way to the dominance of the market in its unbridled form. This will undoubtedly impact all relations, and all communication, further straining the ineffable fabric of tana-bana.” (Raman, 2010, p. 25, emphasis added). Her worries are not totally ungrounded; with the rise of industrial capitalism and the consequent decrease in demand social Both cities have a history of violent Hindu-Muslim conflicts and are generally indicated as ‘hypersensitive areas’ during critical moments (e.g., right after the Ayodhya verdict); the Hindu and Muslim communities are fairly equal in size; where Varanasi has the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh has the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU); and whereas Varanasi is famous for the sārī business in which Hindus and Muslims work together, Aligarh is famous for lock manufacturing in which there is a considerable degree of interdependence The Civil Lines area was the area where British civilian buildings were built during British rule Interview with Mr. Ravindra Kumar, BHU, 1 February 2012 relations also changing quickly, leading to a heightened dependence of Muslim weavers on Hindu merchants and moneylenders, leading to Hindu-Muslim clashes (Pandey, 1990, p. 82). However, efforts to drive Hindus and Muslims apart, amongst other things by boycotting Muslims economically (Raman, 2010, pp. 51-52) and by forceful attempts to convert them (Raman, 2010, p. 69), have proved not to affect the relationship much in the long run. Besides, the weavers have survived two major periods of decline (Kumar, 1989, p. 148), indicating that they are remarkably resilient.
Brass discovered some people believe that businessmen pay criminals to initiate riots. Brass calls such a situation this a win-win situation: the criminals get paid, get the loot from riots, and are guaranteed not to get caught, while property of rivals of the businessmen may be damaged (Brass, 2003, p. 370). He explains the economic advancement of some Muslim groups can foment feelings of hatred between Hindus and Muslims and is seen as one of the causes for communal violence (Brass, 2003, pp. 201-203). The same holds for Varanasi. Raman mentions that prosperity amongst Muslims led to grudge amongst Hindu businessmen and heightened probability of riots (Raman, 2010, p. 58). However, she puts forth how “it is believed that at the time of the communal conflagration Hindu traders and Baniās [merchant/money-lender caste] approached L. K. Advani [BJP party leader], requesting him to stop the riots, since trade and business were being affected...
[Hindu traders also felt] that the interests of Hindus and Muslims were closely interwoven in the sari business and that the politics of Hindutvā was playing havoc with business as well as Hindu-Muslim relations.” (Raman, 2010, p. 162).
In line with Raman, the advocate also connects the sārī business to Hindu-Muslim violence of a more recent past (i.e., his own experiences). He explains it sometimes occurred because of “some business rivalry… and the business tycoons… were indulged.” and “sometimes disturbances are profitable to them [local competitors].”.221 But the people of Banaras would in time realize that is was a “conspiracy” and refused to be used. He emphasizes that nowadays the businessmen also realize that it is a “dangerous foul play” for other people and themselves too: it could destroy the whole sārī business, which is the core of Varanasi. So, according to him, the businessmen have joined hands and “are [unitedly] flourishing the business of the city.”.222 This resulted in good relationships between Hindus and Muslims and now peace and harmony prevail. Apparently, business contains the seed of HinduMuslim harmony as well as the seed of Hindu-Muslim violence.
Interview with Mr. Hassan Siddiqui, Chowk, 27 January 2012 Ibid.
This section discussed that respondents as well as interviewees are very positive about the business relationships between Hindus and Muslims. Muslims take their underprivileged situation in which they earn little and work long hours for granted.
Even Hindus who have negative ideas about Muslims or about Islam in general are positive about business relationships in Varanasi. The sārī industry in Varanasi is hundreds of years old and the main reason that it contributes to good relations between Hindus and Muslims is because they are like tānā-bānā, like the warp and the weft on the loom. Because in most cases Muslim buy raw materials from Hindus, weave sārīs, and afterwards sell them to Hindus, there is a high level of interdependence which makes that people have to make an effort to invest in good relationships. In times of economic crisis the difficult position of people from low social status (mostly Muslims) might lead to strained relationships. However, upward mobility of Muslims with low social status might lead to a break in interdependence.
This will change the dynamic of relationships.
6.4.4 Education Many interviewees asserted that education plays a huge role in bettering the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. More specifically, most people mean education for Muslims. We will first look at the school system in India and the difference between secular schools and madrasas, then at the role of religious education in schools and finally at the role education plays in facilitating interactions.
188.8.131.52 Education in secular schools and madrasas In India, education is free and compulsory by law (Ministry Of Law And Justice, 2009). Classes are usually in English, but some schools use Hindi for instructions.
Most state schools are affiliated to the Central Board Of Secondary Education (CBSE) or the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) who establish the curriculum and examine the students after finishing the 10th and 12th levels.223 Besides these exams, students do internal examinations for other subjects.
Because the quality of private schools is better than that of government schools, enrolment in private schools increases (Kingdon, 2007); these schools are a bit more free in their curricula (e.g., deviating from prescribed books). Besides secular public and private schools India has schools run by religious institutions, especially for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Buddhists.
CBSE’s exams contain five subjects; at level 10 two languages, mathematics, science, and social science, and at level 12 two languages and three electives (CBSE, 2012a; 2012b). The CISCE exam contains seven subjects at level 10 (English, an Indian language, history/civics/geography, environmental education, and three electives) and at level 12 English environmental education and three, four or five electives (CISCE, 2012a, 2012b).
The madrasa teacher, Hafiz Taz Banarasi, told me that in comparison to other schools and in addition to the normal curriculum, madrasas teach Arabic and Urdu as mandatory subjects. Because of their focus of Arabic and Urdu these subjects are taught more in a specialized way compared to other schools that do offer these languages. Besides, there is a lot of attention on reading the Qurān; students start at three, four, or five years old and start learning the Qurān for about three years. After they become hāfiz (have memorized the Qurān) they get admission to Hindi and English classes. They are taught up to the eighth standard, in total a track of about ten years.
Hafiz Taz Banarasi told me that most of the students are Muslims. Hindus are welcome, but currently there are only 10 Hindu’s in a student population of 500.
Boys and girls are taught separately; the boys’ batch start at 7 AM and the girls’ batch is between 1-5 PM. He furthermore informed me that there are about 500-600 girls in the school and only ten out of hundred girls leave the madrasa!
After independence, the amount of madrasas grew substantially. It commonly offers free education, but also serves the goal of protecting Muslim identity by learning children in a predominantly Hindu society about the religious ideology and praxis of their community (Metcalf, 2007; Sikand, 2005). However, madrasas have never really been appreciated and especially since 9/11 they are watched suspiciously, being portrayed as “dens of terror”, as “part of an Islamic ‘terrorist’ conspiracy”, as “training terrorists” (Sikand, 2005), as “sites of fomenting ‘jihād’ or storing arms” (Sundar, 2004, in: Metcalf, 2007), as “obstacle of modernity and progress”, as “[funded by] ‘anti-national external sources’” (Kumar, 2003), and as “teaching hatred against the majority Hindu community” and “being anti-national”, a fear that is shared by the government (Alam, 2008; Sikand, 2005).